Monument for the guest worker (2013) Hans van Bentem

Max Dereta
About the artwork

Since 2006, various parties involved, together with organizations in Rotterdam, have argued for a monument or work of art, in which the contribution of guest labor in the reconstruction of Rotterdam is depicted. Children of the 1st generation guest workers asked CBK Rotterdam to enter into a partnership. It was the result Monument for the guest worker, a design by visual artist Hans van Bentem, which was festively unveiled on Sunday 10 November 2013 on the Afrikaanderplein in the Feijenoord district. Van Bentem is an artist who likes to work with figurative symbols, often over-the-top, in which he fuses all kinds of elements into a recognizable and appealing colorful result. His work is rich in visual language and visual culture, and in this Monument for the guest worker that predilection came in handy. The monument is a combination of many symbols: an obelisk as a victory column, eight colored stone for the eight countries of origin of immigrants (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco), terrazzo as North African material and made by the son of an immigrant (Zuliani), an Eiffel Tower as a reference to the great building that the immigrants contributed to in the reconstruction, ship's steel for the harbor, a sun as a Mediterranean symbol and a nod to the Turkish moon. The work is deliberately striking, because only when people see it properly does it convey its message: namely visibility for the history of the inhabitants of the Afrikaanderwijk (especially immigrants and their descendants). On the one hand it is Monument for the guest worker intended as a thank you for the contribution that guest workers in the Netherlands made to the reconstruction after World War II. On the other hand, the initiators have a strong desire to now, once and for all, close a period in history. “We want to make it clear to our children and grandchildren that they should not feel like a guest here, but that they are part of Dutch society - with all the rights and obligations that come with it”.

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About the artist

Hans van Bentem (The Hague, 1965) studied at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts The Hague in the direction of Monumental Design (1983-1988). In addition to ceramic sculptures, Van Bentem also makes paintings and objects made of glass. As a sculptor he mainly makes oversized sculptures for schools, shopping centers and squares. He is part of the artists' collective De Artoonisten.

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